An introduction to EASIZ (Ecology of the Antarctic Sea Ice Zone): an integrated programme of water column, benthos and bentho-pelagic coupling in the coastal environment of Antarctica
The EASIZ (Ecology of the Antarctic Sea Ice Zone) programme ran from 1994 to 2004, and involved over 150 scientists from more than 17 countries. The main scientific aim was an integrated study of the water column and benthos, linked by bentho-pelagic coupling, of the Antarctic continental shelf. Because water-column studies were well served by existing international programmes (SO-JGOFS, SO-GLOBEC) and national biological oceanographic programmes, EASIZ itself concentrated on the benthos and bentho-pelagic coupling. Work in the EASIZ programme has led to the overturning of some previous paradigms, for example that the Antarctic is species-poor, and replaced these with a revised picture linking the assemblage structure and population dynamics to the glacial-marine setting. The legacy of EASIZ is a wide-ranging reassessment of the diversity, history and ecology of the Antarctic benthos, the coupling of this system to water-column processes, and a fundamental revision of our view of physiological adaptation to temperature in polar marine organisms.